Bush earns praise for economic plans, strategy with Iraq

What others say

Posted: Wednesday, February 05, 2003

By almost any standard, President George W. Bush hit a grand slam with his State of the Union speech. ...

It was measured and positive, and went a long way toward assuaging the fears and concerns of a nation wrestling with a balky economy and perhaps on the brink of war with Iraq.

On domestic issues, Bush talked about reinvigorating the economy. He touched on everything from cutting the double federal tax on corporate dividends to eliminating the marriage tax penalty. He said he wants a $1.2 billion program to develop environmentally friendly hydrogen-powered cars, and programs for drug treatment and mentoring kids.

He called for $400 billion over 10 years to restructure Medicare, and he asked for a ban on a medical procedure known as ''partial birth'' abortion. The president also said he wants vaccines and treatments available for anthrax, Ebola, plague and botulism as part of the nation's homeland security effort.

He urged the expenditure of some $15 billion over the next five years to battle the AIDS epidemic ravaging much of Africa and the Caribbean, and taking lives in this nation.

Bush said he did not want to leave the pressing domestic problems for ''other Congresses, other presidents and other generations.''

But it was his discussion of Iraq that struck the strongest chord. Iraq has ignored United Nations disarmament demands for 12 years.

The president assured the nation and the world that the United States wants peace, but warned, ''Let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.''

A pre-emptive strike against Iraq may be necessary, he said, because Hussein still has not accounted for the 25,000 liters of anthrax, 500 tons of sarin, mustard gas and VX nerve agent and thousands of munitions capable of delivering the agents that he is known to have. He said Iraqi agents are hiding documents from U.N. weapons inspectors and posing as scientists to throw off the inspectors. He said defectors have told of mobile chemical weapons laboratories. Yet, Hussein has not disclosed information about any of that.

Waiting until the weapons are used will be too late, he said. And there can be no doubt Hussein will use the weapons he has hidden if given the opportunity, Bush said -- adding that he already has used them on his own people.

The president is to be commended for his aggressive plans to get the nation's economy off the dime, and by detailing more clearly why Americans should be willing to make war on Saddam Hussein, he has answered many of the nagging questions from his critics.

As speeches go, it could not have been much better -- much to his detractors' chagrin.

-- Voice of the (Anchorage) Times - Jan. 30

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